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What are we getting into with the St. John's Edge and NBL Canada?

Island Storm/Stephen Poirier—St. John’s Edge guard Alex ‘Superman’ Johnson, shown driving to the basket in a game against the island Storm in Charlottetown, P.E.I., earlier this month, has a very good idea of what the National Basketball League of Canada is all about, having played in the league the last four years. However, the circuit is brand new to basketball fans in St. John’s, who will get their first taste of NBL Canada action Friday when the expansion Edge host the Niagara River Lions at Mile One Centre
Island Storm/Stephen Poirier—St. John’s Edge guard Alex ‘Superman’ Johnson, shown driving to the basket in a game against the island Storm in Charlottetown, P.E.I., earlier this month, has a very good idea of what the National Basketball League of Canada is all about, having played in the league the last four years. However, the circuit is brand new to basketball fans in St. John’s, who will get their first taste of NBL Canada action Friday when the expansion Edge host the Niagara River Lions at Mile One Centre

As the Edge prepare for their first-ever NBLC home game, we answer some questions about the league and its newest team

The St. John’s Edge play their first-ever National Basketball League of Canada home game Friday night at Mile One Centre, where they host the Niagara River Lions. Start time is 7 p.m.

Here are some frequently asked questions relating to the NBL Canada and the Edge, and answers to the same. On Friday, we will run the same kind of feature, with more emphasis on the new team in St. John’s,

 

How long has the NBL Canada operated?

The league began in 2011 with seven teams, including three that had previously been members of the Premier Basketball League, an American-based circuit.

The initial NBL Canada franchises included the Halifax Rainmen; Saint John, N.B., Mill Rats; and Quebec City Kebs, all of whom came from the PBL. The other teams that first season were the Summerside, P.E.I., Storm; Moncton Miracles, Oshawa Power and London Lightning.

Halifax, Saint John, Moncton, and London have maintained entries in the league since its inception, although London is the only one with the same initial nickname.

These days, the NBL Canada has three other Ontario teams, in Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and St. Catharines (Niagara), and two more in the Maritimes, in Charlottetown. P.E.I. (Island Storm) and Sydney, N.S. (Cape Breton Highlanders).

Over the years, NBL Canada teams have also played out of Montreal, Ottawa, Mississauga, Brampton and Orangeville, Ont.

The league hasn’t had a commissioner since the resignation of David Magley earlier this year, although Audley Stephenson, who has worked in the league in a media/communications capacity, was recently named deputy commissioner.

London Lightning owner Vito Frijia is the league’s president.

In the hierarchy of North American professional basketball, NBL Canada is considered one of a number of Tier-2 minor leagues behind the NBA and the G-League (the NBA’s development league). However, NBL Canada believes the quality of its product was highlighted earlier this fall when defending champion London defeated Raptors 905, the Toronto Raptors’ G-League affiliate, in an exhibition matchup.

 

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How long is the NBL Canada season?

The NBL Canada’s 2017-18 regular-season schedule began Nov. 18  in Charlottetown, P.E.I., where the Edge debuted with a win over the Storm, and will conclude on April 2, 2018 with another game involving St. John’s as the Edge host the River Lions at Mile One.

This represents a major change from previous seasons when the NBLC schedule got underway much later. For example, the 2016-17 calendar saw the league play its first game on Boxing Day and finish its regular-season schedule in late April, with the playoffs stretching into June.

The 2018 playoffs will end in May after three rounds. The top four finishers from the league’s two five-team divisions will advance to best-of-five quarter-finals, followed by best-of-seven semifinals and final series.

All playoff matchups are within divisions until the final.

 

How many games does each NBL Canada team play and what does the Edge’s schedule look like?

Each team will play 40 games — 20 at home and 20 on the road.

As was the case with American Hockey League teams in St. John’s, the Edge’s home schedule will consist of two-game series against visiting opponents. For example, the River Lions will play the Edge again on Saturday, with Lightning in town on Tuesday and Wednesday.

St. John’s schedule at Mile One consists of three four-game home stands at Mile One (this one, followed by one each in January and February), a six-game stay in early March and a two-game season-closer against the Lions.

The last homestand represents a bit of an anomaly, and not just because it’s only two games long. Since it falls on the Easter weekend, the teams will play Saturday, take a day off Easter Sunday and finish up Monday. In all other cases, the two-game series at Mile One fall on back-to-back nights.

As well, the Saturday, March 31 game will have a 4 p.m. start; the Edge’s other 19 home games have 7 p.m. tip-offs.

NBL Canada does not have much of a Christmas break — there are games on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve — but the Edge will have a lengthy holiday hiatus, playing a game Dec. 17 in London, Ont., and not resuming their schedule until Jan. 9.

 

Why are the Edge in the Central Division and not the Atlantic Division?

Before the Edge joined NBL Canada earlier this year, there were nine teams in the league, four based in Ontario and five in the Maritimes. To ensure two five-team divisions and provide balance to the league, St. John’s was slotted into the Central Divisions with the Lions, Lightning, Kitchener-Waterloo Titans and Windsor Express.

As a result, the bulk of the Edge’s schedule will be played against these Ontario teams. In fact, St. John’s season-opening five-game road swing through the Maritimes constituted its entire 2017-18 road schedule versus Atlantic Division teams. In addition, the Halifax Hurricanes and Moncton Magic will be the only Atlantic Division teams visiting St. John’s this season. The Edge have no more regular-season matchups with the Saint John Riptide, Storm or Cape Breton Highlanders.

This set-up will likely change next season when an expansion team in Sudbury, Ont., is slated to join the league.

 

How many people attend NBL Canada Games?

The league’s average attendance for the 2016-17 regular season was 1,831 per game, with the Lightning runaway leaders in the department, bringing in an average of 5,207 each night at the Budweiser Centre in London.

At the low end were the now-defunct Orangeville A’s, who attracted less than 300 per game on the average. However, it should be noted the A’s played in a very small venue at the Athlete Institute, a basketball training centre in Mono, Ont., operated by the NBLC team’s owners.

The rest of the league averaged between 1,000 and 2,000 fans each contest.

The Edge have been hoping for a sell-out at Mile One for Friday’s home-opener, and it appears they may achieve it.

Capacity for Edge home games is 4,860 (not including suites), which is about 1,000 less (again, not accounting for suites) than what it was for AHL games at Mile One. That’s because a horseshoe-shaped seating configuration is being used for NBL Canada games at Mile One, with sections at the Zamboni (north) end of the facility being curtained off.

As of Wednesday evening, 4,275 tickets had been sold for Friday’s game.

Considerably more are available for Saturday’s rematch with the Lions and next week’s contests against the defending champion Lightning.

 

brendan.mccarthy@thetelegram.com

 

 

 

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